While most good webhosts can guarrantee 99.99% uptime for your website, unexpected problems with hardware, network routers, and even carriers, as well as routine maintenance windows, can all take your website offline.
For general websites the loss of visitors can be bad enough, but for any business website it can lead to lost sales, brand damage, or even opportunities for hackers.
All the more reason to ensure that if your website does go offline for any reason, you can be made aware of it as quickly as possible, and take steps to fix the problem - as well as communicate to customers via social media that you're already working to fix it.
This means being subscribed to a website monitoring service that will not only regularly test your website for problems, but also alert you in the event that any is detected. After all, small problems such as a SQL server crash or a broken plugin can stop your website functioning even if it is technically still online, something any good monitoring services will notice.
Note that there are also similar services for specifically alerting you to website changes or even defacement. As cyberattacks continue to develop, it's also a good idea to consider additional safeguards, such as DDoS protection, and ensure your DNS nameservers are properly secured. It's also worth investing in a SSL certificate to help protect your users, too.
Here we feature the best in website monitoring services, while also listing some contenders also worth considering if you have different needs.
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Best website monitoring software - at a glance
When it comes to website monitoring, probably your first stop should be Alertra, especially because it allows you to do a free spot check of access to your website from server locations around the world.
This means if you try - and fail - to access your website, you can use Alertra to quickly diagnose whether the website server really is offline, or whether it's a potential network/connection issue with your broadband.
In general, though, Alertra is a simple but useful monitoring solution to ensure basic your website functions are up and running, such as HTTP, SMTP, POP3, DNS, and MySQL. This can be especially important when other services might see that your server is still up and running through a HTTPS request, but not notice that MySQL has crashed, for example, which can be especially important when most websites are database driven.
While Alertra is good for general spot checks, a subscription is worth considering as it's a very cost-effective service.
Push notifications via Android and iOS are available for free, as are notifications by email and Google Talk. Notifications by SMS or phone are charged at 19c and 29c per notification respectively. The overall service is priced at $0.20 per URL for hourly monitoring, with a minimum pricing of $9.95 per month, and anything over charged only according to what you actually use.
There's also no contract, so you can start/stop the service whenever you feel like.
Other than having a great URL, Uptime.com has a straightforward, easy to understand product that attracts clients of all sizes. The company has a lot of Fortune 500 organizations among its customer base: IBM, Kraft, and BNP Paribas to name a few.
With the firm’s cheapest package – which starts at $16 per month (when paid annually) – 10 items can be monitored at 60-second intervals. Plans then increase in price to $50/$95/$240 per month, each tier allowing a higher volume of checks, real user monitoring, user accounts, data retention, alerts, and locations. There's also a Single Sign On (SSO) option available after the basic pricing tier.
There’s no free tier, but would-be buyers can avail themselves of a 21-day trial across all the paid-for tiers, with no credit card required, and three useful free tools that’ll give them a taste of what to expect from the website monitoring service. Uptime.com also provides a free public status page for dozens of companies (including popular web hosting outfits) and you can even subscribe to alerts.
Pingdom is regarded by many as the leader of the website monitoring market with nearly 900,000 customers worldwide including the likes of Walmart, Salesforce and Spotify. It focuses on website performance and availability monitoring, meaning it looks at whether the website is up, and whether it loads as expected.
Note that Pingdom sits alongside other Solarwinds products (AppOptics, PaperTrail and Loggly) to provide a one-stop-shop for businesses looking to monitor almost everything that is connected.
Pricing is quite expensive, though, with the cheapest tier starting from over $40 per month for up to 50 endpoint monitors. However, all Pingdom tiers come with a free 14-day trial but you can also use its website speed test to test the load time of a page (or an index page) and analyze it to find bottlenecks.
One outstanding feature is ‘film strip’ where a screenshot of the elements present on the page being monitored is captured every 500ms for the duration it takes to load the complete page. This is subsequently converted into an animation that can then help the webmaster discover how long it takes for critical elements to appear on the page, potentially allowing for better optimization of the site.
ManageEngine’s Site24x7 is an offshoot of popular SaaS outfit Zoho, which ‘dogfooded’ this product before making it available to the general public.
In its simplest form, Site24x7 is a powerful website monitoring solution that scales all the way to become an all-encompassing, full-blown powerhouse that can do application performance monitoring and infrastructure monitoring for thousands of servers and websites simultaneously. That’s great for DevOps teams who want to monitor and troubleshoot applications, servers and network infrastructure, including private and public clouds.
The cheapest tier gives you the ability to monitor 10 websites or servers with one synthetic web transaction with the (rare) ability to buy more add-ons if needed – that might come in handy as the lowest RUM (real user monitoring) pageview count stands at only 100K.
All tiers have a 30-day free trial period. Site24x7 distinguishes between basic monitors and advanced monitors: web page speed and website defacement for example count as advanced monitors, while a pure HTTP request is deemed basic.
The website monitoring service also provides far more free tools than its competitors. However, the sheer breadth and depth of Site24x7’s offerings runs the danger of confusing novice users who only want to check their sites for availability.
Speaking of dogfooding, as with our previous solution, here’s another which took this route. Cula hails from Poland and was developed primarily for in-house use before being opened to anybody.
It offers an attractive free plan that allows for the monitoring of 50 URLs (each with five content checks) and five servers with 10 parameters each. You will be alerted by email, over Slack, Discord and Pushover if there are any server issues.
Note that you get a 120-second checking interval even on paid accounts, and 180-days of history storage. Paying for the service gets you more URLs, more parameters, custom agent-less application performance monitoring, longer history storage and more content checks per URL.
There’s a nifty little demo version that doesn’t require you to create an account. The dashboard of the service is very easy to use and the Cula team deliberately kept things simple. There’s no native mobile app, transaction monitoring, advance reporting capabilities or maintenance scheduling, but you wouldn’t need those anyway if you’re after a basic website monitoring service on a budget.
We also liked the ability to come up with your own scripts to monitor almost anything: from your laptop’s battery to a weather station.
UptimeRobot is a bit of a veteran having been launched at the beginning of this decade. It was one of the first to offer a free service which is still running and boasts up to 50 monitors (URLs, servers, keywords or ports), 5-minute checking intervals and 2-months of log storage.
Upgrade to the Pro Plan to get the monitoring interval reduced to 60-seconds with 20 SMS or phone calls, 12 months of logs, SSL monitoring, advanced notifications, maintenance scheduling and custom HTTP headers and statuses, all from just $7 per month.
However, if you want more advanced features, you will need to look elsewhere. UptimeRobot provides basic performance monitoring (limited to response time) and the main monitoring locations are US-based primarily. As with Cula, there are no multi-user features, no mobile apps or transaction monitoring.
Other website monitoring software to consider
There are other website monitoring services available, but whichever you choose do ensure that it can test any services that should be active. A simple ping that shows that a URL is accessible doesn't necessarily mean that the website is up and running, hence all the more reason to include checking corresponding services you use such as MySQL for databases or POP3 for email. Here therefore are some additional tools you can use to check your website(s) are running as they should, some of which are free to use or have a free tier:
Montis provides a number of uptime monitors, not least for real user monitoring, as well as for full page load, transaction tests, as well as monitoring for servers and applications. This is a more extensive monitoring solution intended to ensure that the website is operational, but also that the server is functioning properly, as are apps running on it. Pricing is entirely customized according to the actual services you need, as well as frequency of checks and the number of locations to check from. Pricing is discounted by 20% if paid annually.
UpTrends provides a number of services on top of website monitoring, such as web performance and applications monitoring, as well as server, API, and real user monitoring. Push notifications are available through Android and iOS apps, as well as SMS and voice alerts as required. There are three pricing tiers for basic website monitoring, starting at $14.59 per month for 10 monitors, rising to $204.21 for 250 monitors. However, there are also two advanced website monitoring tiers which allow for much more customizations and begin from $34.94 per month. As with others, there's a free trial available as well as discount for annual payments, and there are also a number of free tools available.
Host Tracker is targeted at webmasters and webhosts, allowing them to not simply monitor the availability of services to ensure that websites remain up and running, but also additional tools to check that IPs and domains have not been blacklisted, as well as security certificate expirations. Additional tools allow for the monitoring of server resources, not least RAM and CPU use, as well as load. There's also a feature that allows error log snapshotting. Pricing begins at $14 per month for 10 URLs and limited features, with the $29 per month business plan providing the full toolset. There's a discount of around 25% when paid annually.
Datadog website monitoring provides a more heavy-duty approach to website, server, and application monitoring, as well as monitoring cloud infrastructure, aimed primarily at enterprises. It provides a dashboard for the visualization of metrics, traces, and logs, and it can be customized using drag and drop to graph, analyze, or compare these. A collaboration feature allows for teams to work together on outages in real-time, or else check on historical performance. Pricing depends on whether you want synthetics, full-stack infrastructure, or APM monitoring, with pricing starting from between $5-$31 respectively. There is also a free 14-day trial available.
Alertbot is designed as a streamlined website monitoring system, with the promise of setup taking only minutes (and no installation), coupled with a suitably user-friendly interface. This is another service that allows the user to do much more than simply monitoring site availability, and it can also be used to monitor your APIs and web services, apps, and servers. Alertbot will pinpoint problems with your webpages beyond just simple downtime, giving you the ability to check on scripts or other page elements, and monitor load times, looking for any kind of problem that might be hampering your website in not just major, but also minor ways. All of this monitoring functionality is achieved from a neat central hub, too. Alertbot offers three different tiers of subscription, with the Essentials plan starting at $92 per month (on an annual contract). At the time of writing you get the first two months of service free, plus there’s also a free trial to test Alertbot out with no billing info needed.